Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Brilliantly renovated and cut in half

'Red Square'  and 'The Drill Rig' - An update

 This painting and the next were originally parts of the same canvas. A sudden gust of wind and the canvas was picked up and impaled on the edge of the easel. One of the many hazards of life as a plein air painter!
I had the damaged canvas standing face to the wall at home for several weeks, too depressed to look at it more closely.
Instead of a repair I finally decided to complete the surgery and separate it into 2 square canvases.
I had to decide what to lose and what to keep. The original canvas contrasted the meditative reflections of the interior with the activity of the exterior. Now they have been accidentally and forcibly separated. I was very upset at first, but, on the principle of 'whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger', I'm starting to appreciate their qualities as separate canvases.
'Red Square'
'Red Square' oil on canvas 36 x 36cm
Now 'Red Square' is truly just that : a red square on a square canvas. Unless you know what you are looking at and where it comes from, it could be an excercise in abstraction.

Degas and the Drill Rig
'The Drill rig teams.' oil on canvas 36 x 36cm

I enjoy the idea of a 'picture within a picture', especially with the framing device such as the window or the curtain caught in the act of being moved to reveal the background image which is the real focus of the painting. That painterly trick is called "repoussir" ( 'to push back' in the original French) and I picked it up from studying the works of the master of perspective and design, the French Impressionist, Edgar Degas. While most people are looking at his ballet dancers, I try to prise apart the jigsaw of his compositions. His pastels of dancers would have been charming, yet forgettable, if they had merely presented a full length image of the subject. By cropping his subject unexpectedly and half hiding/half revealing his dancers behind staircases, furniture or doorframes, Degas added the element of surprise. There is a feeling of chance with the encounter; even an element of the voyeur.

This shows the bi-fold door half opened to reveal the drill rig teams, about to start drilling. It is unclear whether the door is opening or closing. The scene is deceptively still; the trucks have arrived; the men have set up their equipment and are poised to start work. This is the calm before the storm.

For the earlier incarnation of these 2 canvases as a single larger canvas see my post in this blog: "Red Square"
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